Russia, US Agree to Jointly Build a Station Orbiting the Moon

At height of New Cold War tensions NASA and Roscosmos announce an alliance

Well that’s really something. At the height of the New Cold War the American and Russian space agencies have come together to announce the most ambitious joint project to date.

Last week Popular Mehanics first reported NASA and Roscosmos would make the announcement soon, and they were right. It happened today.

The plan to build a space station orbiting the moon is part of a wider vision to eventually reach Mars. The Americans hope the Russians can provide its expertise in lunar landers and rocketry:

If Russia joins the program, it could contribute its extensive expertise in the development of the lunar landers. During the past decade, engineers at RKK Energia, Russia’s prime developer of piloted spacecraft, has been studying possible lunar landers and other Moon-based architecture.

The Russian space industry could also provide its rockets, such as the operational Proton booster, the new-generation Angara and the prospective super-heavy rocket to deliver cargo and eventually its own crews to the near-lunar station.

And the Russians add they are also able to contribute expertise in docking units and life-support:

“Roscosmos and NASA have already agreed on standards for a docking unit of the future station,” the Russian space agency said.

“Taking into account the country’s extensive experience in developing docking units, the station’s future elements—as well as standards for life-support systems—will be created using Russian designs.”

We are offering carriers for flights to a lunar orbiting station, we are offering our docking units or their components,” he said, adding Russia had vast experience in creating life-support systems.

“That is a rather significant contribution.”

Drawing from the knowledge of two leading space industries, instead of just one, will make a wonderfully ambitious mission like the lunar orbiting station more technologically feasible. But our guess is that there is another reason behind the alliance.

Aside from making it more scientifically realistic, shared costs will make the mission cheaper. By dividing the costs NASA and Roscosmos are betting they stand a better chance of getting long-term funding for their vision from purseholders in Washington and Moscow.